Hawks bill respects ruling - police

2012-03-07 20:50

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Cape Town - The police secretariat on Wednesday insisted that an amendment bill restructuring the Hawks, or DPCI, honours the Constitutional Court ruling that struck down the founding law for the elite unit.

"This bill complies with the Constitutional Court ruling and it gives effect to the Constitutional Court ruling," Jenny Irish-Qhobosheane told Parliament's portfolio committee on police.

MPs were told the SA police service amendment bill of 2012 rewrites the 2008 Act by establishing the unit as a separate directorate of the police, and not a mere division.

"What we are seeking to do is create the DPCI [directorate for priority crime investigation] as a separate directorate," Irish-Qhobosheane said, adding that the implications were that the police could not determine the structures of the unit, or steer its focus.

She said clause four aimed to bring the legislation in line with the current, and not the interim Constitution, by making the head of the DPCI, and not the national police commissioner, responsible for the investigation of organised crime.

"The bill seeks to amend section 11 of the Act by providing for the head of the directorate to decide which matters will be investigated on a national or provincial level in accordance with approved policy guidelines," she said.

"In the past it was the national commissioner who decided what matters will be investigated. We have amended the Act to say that it is the head of the DPCI."

In addition to increasing the powers of the DPCI boss, it stipulated that he or she could not be removed without an inquiry, and that the matter had to be referred to Parliament within 14 days.

But opposition MPs appeared unconvinced the tabled amendments will give the DPCI the necessary level of independence.

Pieter Groenewald of the Freedom Front Plus said the bill contradicted itself on whether the police minister, or a ministerial committee, would co-ordinate the work of the DPCI with that of other government departments.

"These are important principles we must take into consideration to make amendments... or else we go through the whole process, waste taxpayers' money and in the end we end up in court again."

Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said it appeared the head of the DPCI would be a political appointment made in a "secret process".

Moreover, leaving the DPCI part of the police meant it could come under pressure from the national commissioner not to investigate matters like high-level police corruption.

Current DPCI chief Anwa Dramat countered this would amount to an unlawful order, and even the lowest-ranking policemen had the right to defy such orders.

MPs also objected to a request by committee chairpersonSindi Chikunga that members work overtime to process the bill.

They said the department had taken a year to draft the amendment bill, leaving Parliament only six months to process it and meet the September deadline set by the Constitutional Court.

The court a year ago found the bill failed to give the DPCI sufficient independence, and gave Parliament 18 months to remedy it.

The law was implemented in response to a resolution taken at the ANC's 2007 elective conference to disband the Scorpions, which fell under the National Prosecuting Authority, and not the police.

It was taken on review by businessman Hugh Glenister.

Glenister last month said he was "flabbergasted" the bill left the DPCI located within the police.

He vowed to return to court once the parliamentary process had run its course if he felt it failed to give the unit sufficient independence.

The court ruling did not expressly state the unit must be located outside the police.

- SAPA
Read more on:    police  |  da  |  hawks  |  anwar dramat  |  dianne kohler barnard  |  legislation
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